Natural Selection 2

Natural Selection 2

I’m in love with the idea of Natural Selection 2 more than anything else about it. I feel like every aspiring game designer has dreamed up an asymmetric FPS/RTS hybrid at some point, only to dismiss it as impractical. NS2 ignores such earthbound considerations and just runs with it. Both sides of ground troops are fundamentally different – the humans are playing a standard shooter augmented with base construction and purchasable equipment, while the aliens are largely melee-focused and play like appendages of a larger entity that can each evolve into wildly different creatures. But even the commander roles for each team differ significantly in how they expand and upgrade, so you’re essentially required to learn four different games in order to really experience this one.

Full disclosure: I didn’t even try to play as commander alongside anything other than bots, because the idea of playing a vital role in a competitive game with 8 toxic veterans relying on me is anxiety incarnate. It’s certainly not the game’s fault that most people still playing it have been doing so for eight years and aren’t particularly tolerant of rookie mistakes, but a lot more could be done to ease players into this miasma of game mechanics. Once you’ve at least figured out how everything works, there’s some fun to be had, even if you haven’t actually become proficient at anything yet. A well-coordinated NS2 team is a thing of beauty that feels great to be a part of, especially since eight years of patches have created an immaculately level battlefield.

There are still issues that don’t stem from the complexity, however. First-person perspective is notoriously ill-suited to melee combat, and even more so when it’s viewed from a foot-high “mouth cam” that keeps getting blocked by unnecessary graphical details. In fact, the controls for the aliens and commanders are all mildly uncooperative at best, though not to the point of frustration. Lastly, the maps are filled with twists and barely-perceptible alternate paths, presumably to keep things interesting for commanders, but ultimately bewildering ground-level players. The visual and mechanical overhaul since the original’s days as a free Half-Life mod is impressive, and there’s still nothing else like this on the market, but I can’t blame anyone who gives up on it after a few hours.

5.5/10
5.5/10

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